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my big, new, (not so) secret project

As my regular readers know, I’ve put a lot of time into my writing these past few years. The whole point of this blog was to chart my journey into this brave new world and hopefully meet some lovely people on the way – which I have!
path into a book

When I began, I wasn’t sure which direction my writing was going to take me and, in fact, it’s taken me in all sorts of different ones – I’ve written poetry, short stories and flash fiction all while working on a novel (or two). But what’s gripped me most has been writing my limericks, which I plan on having illustrated and self-publishing, and my picture books, two of which are currently out with agents.  With limited time at my disposal, they (and this blog) have been my focus.

The fact that both of these either need or benefit from illustrations means I’ve spent a lot of time looking into illustrative styles and wondering who I might like to work with. I’ve also thought a lot about what pictures could go with my stories and poems and how images could complement words. And through it all I’ve found myself saying repeatedly ‘I can see pictures in my head but I couldn’t possibly draw them myself’. It almost became a mantra – this admission of one ability alongside a simultaneous dismissal of the possibility of another.

This, despite the fact that I’ve always loved art – it was my favourite subject at school (well, that and creative writing). I took Art GCSE and, although I was guided away from it after that by the school’s careers adviser (bright kids had to study ‘proper’ A levels you see… don’t get me started!), I returned to it in my mid-twenties and did a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design. I can’t think about that year without smiling – I LOVED it! I specialised in textiles and ended up setting up my own business designing and making handbags. Then other things happened, including a recession and having kids and, to cut a long story short, I no longer do anything arty at all. Bar the odd picture on this blog, all my creative energy is poured into my writing.

But then over Christmas an idea popped into my head. Why not return to visual art? Why not study illustration? I mean, imagine if I could learn to illustrate my own work?! A whole life of unbridled bliss rolled itself out in my mind – one where I could spend time gazing out of a window thinking up beautiful stories to spill over a page, and then cosy up in my rustic studio surrounded by paints and pencils to bring those stories to life with pictures. I could eat toast and marmite looking wistful with a smear of turquoise ink across my cheek, do the school run with a notepad tucked in the back of my paint-splattered jeans. My children would be surrounded by stories and art and we would all live a life of unending creativity and imagination… ahhhh…

And then I got real.

And the doubts set in.

What on earth am I thinking? I don’t have the ability, I’m setting myself up to fail, what makes me think I could possibly make a success of being an illustrator? Surely anyone else would be better at illustrating my work than I am? How can I find time to write AND draw when I can hardly find time just to write? Who am I kidding?!

I almost talked myself out of it. But not quite. Because I have this really strong feeling that if I don’t give it a go, I’ll regret it. I feel like I’ve been trying to tell myself something by (accidentally) focusing on writing that goes hand in hand with drawing. It’s like I’ve been leading myself somewhere and I’ve only just taken the blindfold off and seen what’s always been there.

I’m not deluded though – I know that regardless of how things go, my life won’t be just like the one I imagined above. I don’t have a rustic studio for a start, nor do I have much time for window gazing and anyway, any success involves knuckling down to do the hard graft rather than looking wistfully paint-splattered. But it’s good to have a dream!

Who knows if I will be any good? Who knows if I’ll even be able to illustrate anything at all? Perhaps my dream will collapse like a bad soufflé. It scares me (really quite a bit actually).

But I’m willing to give it a go. So I’ve signed up to an illustration course – a distance learning one that I can do at my own pace (within limits) which I think is the most realistic way of juggling it with my other commitments and passions (I have no intention at all of giving up writing!). It feels like the first step on a new path – a twisty, turny path I suspect, for which I haven’t got a map or a compass. But I do have a sturdy backpack with some sandwiches and a flask of hot chocolate. And I’m kind of hoping that, through this blog, some of you will be able to be my companions along the way.

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I’m linking this post up with ‘The Prompt’ at Mum Turned Mom. The word this week is ‘paint’ – I couldn’t quite believe it when I saw it and thought it had to be ‘a sign’ (I don’t believe in signs but still, I needed something to make me take action rather than just continue mulling the idea over…)

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